Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls...

In celebration of Ev's six month anniversary of getting his license, I present this post again....

Evan got his driving permit recently and so I took him out yesterday to drive the streets around our home. Oh boy. This rite of passage is tough on a parent, but I am doing much better than I did a few years ago when Sonny Boy took me down the same path.

There was one evening I remember in particular. HOB was out of town and I was teaching late. Sonny Boy, 16 and Evan, 11, had been on their own for the evening. I came home, exhausted and I immediately changed into sweats and slippers and plopped on the couch, planning on going to bed within the hour. However, the boys informed me they were hungry and wanted to go to Taco Bell. "No way!" I said. "I'm exhausted."

They wheedled.
I said no.
They pled.
I said no.
They whined.
I said no.
They applied guilt.
They had been all alone, in the house, with no food, no parents.

Working Mother caved.

If a couple of tacos and an order of nachos would relieve the feeling of criminality of being a Career Woman/Working Mother, even temporarily, so be it.

Sonny Boy jumped up and offered to drive. He had his permit and was ready to use it, but needed a parent with him. "OK," I said, "but don't get into an accident because I've taken off my bra and shoes and I'm not putting them back on."

We got into the car, SB in the driver's seat, Evan in the back and me in the passenger's side. Of course, I had ridden with Sonny Boy before, but never at night and never with Evan along. I discovered the seat I was sitting in was positioned as far back from the dash as possible--the position SB nearly always put it in to accommodate his long legs. Try as I might, I couldn't get the seat to slide forward. I felt small and disconnected from the front of the car. I found myself hanging on to the handle above the window as we drove, a position I have always associated with nervous grandmothers.

Now, any parent can tell you, it's just plain startling to find yourself on the passenger's side after years in the driver's seat. But the situation became surreal when we pulled into the drive-thru lane of Taco Bell and Sonny Boy turned to ask me what I wanted. I was shocked by this reversal of roles. I hesitated and fumbled with my order. I could tell he was getting exasperated with me. "Come on, Mom. Don't you know what you want?" he said in a tone that was more than vaguely familiar to me. Could that be my impatient tone coming out of the boy's mouth now? He turned to Evan, demanded his order and then turned to the speaker box to place the order.

At that moment, some strange, primitive hunter/gatherer instinct arose in me and overwhelmed my senses. An alarm as old as our species went off. Not only was I not driving, but now I was displaced as the provider of nutrients. I should be the one speaking into the metal box, procuring food for my offspring. Instead, I was the one waiting to be fed, my thin white knuckles still wrapped around the handle above the window. Not only that, but like a aging convalescent, I had slippers on, my legs seemed to dangle in front of me, I couldn't reach the dash, and was it my imagination, but were my unsupported breasts sagging even more now, nearly touching my knees? Could it be that this brightly-lit alley, decorated with giant pictures of tacos and burritos under the purple and yellow lights was some sort of time tunnel? I strained to see my reflection in the side mirror. The lights above cast weird, ghastly shadows around my eyes. I looked up and over. Had the sign above the drive-thru window actually changed to "Taco Hell"?

Sonny Boy drove to the window, and turned to me for the money. Ah, at least there was some normality in this act. I dug through my purse (another old lady act) and finally found enough. SB handed the bag of food to me and Evan wanted to start eating his in the car. "No," said Sonny Boy authoritatively, as he turned the wheel. "We'll eat it at home."

I thought about this episode as I drove with Evan yesterday. I know there will be times like this ahead, when he naturally assumes the mantel of authoritativeness while I sit, watching in amazement and bewilderment.

But for right now I ride with my youngest son at the wheel as he drives slowly around the familiar, uncomplicated streets of our neighborhood--no heavy traffic, no major intersections. The decisions and moves he needs to make are relatively easy ones. I sit on the passenger's side, offering encouragement and advice. Fully dressed, seat pulled up parallel with his, I am ready (well, almost ready) for what the future holds.


Ann said...

I remember those days of sitting in the passenger seat with my children in control of the wheel. I believe that I nearly wore out the imaginary break petal on the passengers side. The one I worried about the most was my daughter who eventually turned out to be a pretty darn good driver.

Holly Renee said...

I love this post. It's so cool to hear about the adjustment it takes when children grow older. I love how you described this. What a cool moment to document. It sounds like you are a really good parent, and willing to take on the changing roles with love. I'm glad I read this.

essbesee said...

FANTASTIC post. just love your writing.

Joe Cap said...

Well, this post means a lot to me. The Daughter will be driving in less than 3 years...I don't know how I will cope. I feel better in the fact that even now, while riding in the car with me while I am driving, she is paying attention to what is going on, and makes comments about other drivers, and critiques my driving skills accurately.

Betty Manousos said...

Oh, how I love this post, Betty.
So beautifully written!
Your last lines just show what a great mom you are.
I love your subtle sense of humour and I think that "..a position I have always associated with nervous grandmothers" and "..another old lady act, are def ..priceless!*smiles*!
I also think that Sonny Boy is so adorable and agree with Holy Renee; you are willing to take on the changing roles with love.

Hope you have a great weekend!
Betty xx

Alexandra said...

Oh, goodness,you handled this with such a minimum of tears.

I know I'll just be a blubbering mess.

Ally said...

Dieting is killing me, for some odd reason I thought this was going to be a post about Taco Bell and it was! Ha ha!

Roxy said...

Great post, Betty. I am currently teaching two boys to drive. It is an unforgettable experience. Funny, scary, and sentimental, all at the same time.

Ms. A said...

When my kids began driving, it felt like the beginning of the end for me. At that point, I knew it was just a matter of time before they left the nest.

Beth Zimmerman said...

Wonderful post, Betty! :)

liz said...

You made it sound like you are the reason for the "No shirt, no shoes, no service" policy.

It's so funny because there were a bunch of times while I was reading that I thought, "She's taught them TOO well, and now it's coming back to bite her in the butt!"

One Photo said...

Oh Betty you write with such panache and humor, your description of you slumped in the passenger seat at the Taco Bell window was hilarious!

Another brilliant post

My Mind's Eye said...

Hi Betty and I'm sitting right there with you...been there done that and made a really stupid promise that I never thought would be remembered. All during our daughter's permit stage she kept talking about the big day and how she wanted to spend it and what would be the perfect way. Her b-day is in Aug. school was out so her plan was for us to arrive at DMV early, she would take the written test and road test. Obviously she would pass both then she would drive me to work. Go home then come back for me. I don't remember agreeing to it 100%..but you know they have great memories. Lo and behold she passed both with flying colors. I'll never forget the feeling I had in the pit of my stomach as she pulled out on that busy road alone. Needless to say I was a basket case but we both survived that first solo. Thanks for the memories. Good luck to son #2.
Madi and Mom

Copyboy said...

Leave it to you to turn a mundane task of riding with a teen into a riveting adventure. Great read. As always. Though I was kinda upset there were no scissors confrontations in this one.

Pat Tillett said...

Betty, that was a great post. Great on many levels. My mind is now full of memories.
Loved this post, really...

Cheeseboy said...

Maybe I am just an idiotic man, but I don't see why having no bra if you get pulled over would be a problem.

I do not look forward to these days. My boys are never going to drive.

this was a very funny post.

J.J. said...

dude....I have 4 kids...the oldest being 8...I am not anywhere near ready for driving. Thanks goodness I have 8 years of fun to prepare. Ooooh...I see your previous post has cookies involved. Must go see.

new to your blog btw :) said...

This was a great experience from a seat far from the passenger's. Hope the rest of the rides are very smooth.
PS I think I've said this at least once, but thanks for staring at my #'s with me. (I didn't see it happen, but I made it.:))

Powdered Toast Man said...

I want some taco bell now. If I had just got my license I would go out but after having it for so long it's not that fun anymore

Yaya' s Home said...

Isn't that just one of the most devastating moments in a mother's life... when your youngest gets behind the wheel of a car? I'm still trying to get used to the shock of it. Well, it HAS only been 18 years, after all.

~ Yaya
Yaya's Changing World

Heidi said...

LOL, I felt like I was sitting in the seat right there with you!

Thanks for sharing this one, it came a perfect time for me. Our 15 1/2 yr old daughter is scheduled to start Driving classes in a few weeks and Im terrified! Not sure Im ready for this at all.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. I hated teaching my kids to drive. Scary. I've got another one coming up on "that time" within the year. Yikes.

Life Is A Road Trip said...

Ah, the joys of parenthood. Sometimes it just makes you want to Run For The Border!

Shan said...

"I've taken off my bra" is the signal between my friends and I that nothing more is going to happen that night.

This whole post cracked me up. I am so glad Corey doesn't feel ready to be a driver. Maybe he won't feel like that's necessary until he's an adult. With a job. And his own place. No, I haven't been smoking crack again. Why do you ask?

Happy anniversary to Evan... and you!

Peggy K said...

This was one part of "raising kids" that I left to my ex-husband. Not because I didn't think my kids would do well, but because I know me. And I wouldn't have done well in the passenger seat! Kudos to you to do it twice!!